Will Consumers Pay More for Recycled Ocean Plastic?

beach plastics

by | Mar 23, 2017

beach plasticsIn a move that could increase consumer awareness about marine plastic pollution — and thus, consumer willingness to pay more for products made from recycled marine plastic — recycling company TerraCycle plans to expand its beach cleanup programs to collect up to 1,000 tons of plastic waste globally.

Earlier this year TerraCycle, in partnership with Procter & Gamble and Suez, developed the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25 percent recycled beach plastic. The Head & Shoulders shampoo bottle will debut in France this summer.

TerraCycle told Plastics News that the partners have major expansion plans.

The initial beach cleanups collected 15 tons of material in Europe; Brett Stevens, vice president of material sales and procurement at the recycling company, told the publication that the company plans to expand collection efforts to North America and Asia.

“The collection goals we’ve set forth in total approach I would say probably 500 to 1,000 tons coming off beaches over the next 12 months,” Stevens said. “It is very much not a fad. I think that we’re investing the staff and resources and building our programs with our partners, making this a long-lasting impact.”

TerraCycle’s statements come as other leading companies are turning their attention to plastic waste ending up in oceans and other waterways.

Last month Dell said it has developed the technology industry’s first packaging trays made with 25 percent recycled ocean plastic content. In January, Unilever CEO Paul Polman called on the consumer goods industry to address ocean plastic waste and employ circular economy models to increase plastic recycling rates. Adidas is also working to solve the problem of plastic pollution in oceans by turning this waste stream into new material for its shoes.

But as environmental groups like Greenpeace and circular economy advocates like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have shown in recent reports, more needs to be done. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, one-third of the plastic packaging used globally ends up in oceans and other fragile ecosystems. An earlier study by the foundation found there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050.

However, as Waste Dive reports, the cost associated with collecting and cleaning marine plastic for reuse in products and packaging means virgin material is cheaper. “A coordinated global campaign that can demonstrate the path from cleaning beaches to putting new products on store shelves might help drive consumer interest in paying a little more for packaging made from this content.”

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